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Arsenal now real title contenders after winning first proper away test but must strengthen in January transfer market

THEY keep on finding a way to win.

They keep on staying top of the table.

Gabriel celebrates his winner with William Saliba

And now you have to say it – Mikel Arteta and his men ARE serious, the real deal.

While the Gunners have beaten Spurs and Liverpool at home, they self-combusted on their previous proper away test at Old Trafford.

But while there was a degree of fortune about Gabriel’s second half winner at Stamford Bridge, and Arteta may be starting to sweat a little over Gabriel Jesus’ nine-match goalless run, this was a test passed with flying colours to send a message up to Pep Guardiola and the Etihad.

Arteta’s team are easy on the eye and a good watch for anybody – except the manager, who puts himself through an emotional wringer standing a couple of feet outside his technical area.

It was only at the final whistle, met by a jump of joy, that the manager relaxed. But that intensity is rubbing off.

Thomas Partey is critical, muscular intensity as the fulcrum of the team, Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka offer width and penetration and the defence has a solidity – and physicality – fans have long been calling for.

Far too good for Chelsea, all over the park.

No wonder those in the away section at the Shed End celebrated so wildly, revelling in a triumph that was thoroughly deserved, enough chances wasted to have matched the four Brighton put past the moody Blues last week.


Yet while the Gunners have surpassed all pre-season expectations, there are doubts, even internally, about their staying power.

Eight of the team that started at Stamford Bridge – Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Gabriel, Granit Xhaka, Saka, Martinelli and Jesus – have been ever-present in the Prem.

That could last, of course. Theoretically.

But Arsenal’s fixture list will become even more crowded after the World Cup, which presents so many unprecedented challenges in itself. 

Realistically, injuries will come, perhaps long-term ones, to key personnel. 

Recruitment in January – cover for Partey, another option wide right and a genuine goalscorer – will surely be required if they are to sustain a challenge through the winter and spring. 

But confidence is flowing through this side, a river that overwhelmed Chelsea, the gap between them now reflected in the table as well.

Arsenal have been at the Prem summit since beating Bournemouth on August 20. It is not a fluke.

Contenders, not pretenders, for sure. A couple more bodies in January and the misery of last season’s late collapse will be long forgotten. Arteta knows. 

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